Masculinity and Mental Health

Masculinity (also called manhood or manliness) is a set of attributes, behaviours, and roles associated with boys and men. As a social construct, it is distinct from the definition of the male biological sex. Standards of manliness or masculinity vary across different cultures and historical periods. Both males and females can exhibit masculine traits and behaviour. Traits traditionally viewed as masculine in western society include strength, courage, independence, leadership and assertiveness.

Mental health includes our emotional, psychological and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others and make choices. Mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood.

At different stages of life, it has been concluded through research that men are less likely to seek mental health services compared to their female counterparts. One of the factors that contribute to this underuse of seeking professional help is masculinity norms. Masculinity norms, as they’re called in psychological research, are sometimes described as the rules of masculinity and may include specific ways men are told they should act like being tough, stay in control and be a provider, etc. It has often been viewed that it is not okay for boys and men to express or discuss their emotions and thus show weakness.

There has been a lot of debate about ‘toxic masculinity’ and manhood. Traits of toxic masculinity can lead to numerous negative outcomes. Adherence to rigid masculine norms may lead to problems with dating and interpersonal intimacy, greater depression and anxiety, abuse of substances, problems with interpersonal violence, greater health risk and greater overall psychological distress.

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